Monday 20 August 2018

Texas governor unveils school safety plan following shooting

Greg Abbott, who is campaigning for re-election, announced a handful of the recommendations which involved gun safety across the state.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaking in the wake of the school shooting (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaking in the wake of the school shooting (Stuart Villanueva/The Galveston County Daily News via AP)

By Jamie Stengle, Associated Press

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has recommended dozens of strategies to make schools safer in the wake of the deadly shooting at a Houston-area high school.

The Republican and staunch gun-rights supporter released a 43-page report that included increasing the presence of law enforcement officers and suggested more mental health screening for students.

A handful of the recommendations involved gun safety in Texas, a state that embraces its gun-friendly reputation and has more than 1.2 million people licensed to carry handguns.

Mr Abbott, who is campaigning for re-election, said funding for some of the recommendations will be aided by federal grants, though others require state lawmakers to weigh in.

“We all share a common bond: And that is we want action to prevent another shooting like what happened at Santa Fe High School,” he said during a news conference at Dallas school district headquarters.

The report comes a day after students returned to Santa Fe High School for the first time since the May 18 shooting that killed eight students and two substitute teachers, and critically wounded a police officer.

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Santa Fe High School supporters gather by the school to wish student and staff well on their first day of classes (Marie D. De Jesus/Houston Chronicle via AP)

The recommendations were made following three days of mostly closed-door meetings that Mr Abbott quickly organised last week with school districts, shooting survivors and groups on both sides of the gun-control debate, among others.

So far the governor has ignored calls from a handful of lawmakers from both parties to call the legislature into special session to address gun laws — a sharp contrast to the response in Florida following the February high school shooting there that killed 17 people.

Florida lawmakers, who were already in session, passed a gun-control package three weeks later thanks in part to a lobbying campaign led by student survivors of the attack.

Texas lawmakers are not scheduled to meet until January 2019 and unlike the students in Florida, several students at Santa Fe High School have been vocal opponents of increased gun control, including some who were invited to meet with Mr Abbott last week.

Students who had classes in the area of the shooting were the first allowed back into the school Tuesday, followed by the rest about two hours later.

All students then gathered for a two-hour assembly honouring the victims, and counsellors were available.

Mr Abbott visited the campus on Tuesday, privately speaking with students, parents, teachers and staff, and presented first responders with an award for their actions.

Authorities have charged a 17-year-old student, Dimitrios Pagourtzis, with capital murder in the attack.

He is accused of using a shotgun and pistol that belonged to his father, and is jailed without bond.

The family of one of the students killed in the attack has filed a lawsuit against Pagourtzis’ parents.

Press Association

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